Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron, A Voice of Black Culture

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media in pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop, passed away yesterday, May 27, 2011 at the age of 62 in Manhattan, NY.
Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois, but spent his early childhood in Jackson, Tennessee, the home of his maternal grandmother Lillie Scott.[citation needed] Gil's mother, Bobbie Scott-Heron, sang with the New York Oratorio Society. Scott-Heron's Jamaican father,Gilbert "Gil" Heron, nicknamed "The Black Arrow", was a football player who, in the 1950s, became the first black athlete to play for Glasgow's Celtic Football Club. Gil's parents divorced when he was young and Gil was sent to live with his grandmother Lillie Scott.[4] When Scott-Heron was 13 years old, his grandmother died and he moved with his mother to The Bronx in New York City, where he enrolled in DeWitt Clinton High School. He later transferred to The Fieldston School after one of his teachers, a Fieldston graduate, showed one of his writings to the head of the English department at Fieldston and he was granted a full scholarship.
Scott-Heron attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, as it was the college chosen by his biggest influence Langston Hughes. It was here that Scott-Heron met Brian Jackson with whom he formed the band Black & Blues. After about two years at Lincoln, Scott-Heron took a year off to write the novels The Vulture and The Nigger Factory.[5] He returned to New York City, settling in Chelsea, ManhattanThe Vulture was published in 1970 and well received. Although Scott-Heron never received his undergraduate degree, he had a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Read the full article here:

Scott-Heron began his recording career in 1970 with the LP Small Talk at 125th and LenoxBob Thiele of Flying Dutchman Records produced the album, and Scott-Heron was accompanied by Eddie Knowles and Charlie Saunders on conga and David Barnes on percussion and vocals. The album's 15 tracks dealt with themes such as the superficiality of television and mass consumerism, the hypocrisy of some would-be Black revolutionaries, and white middle-class ignorance of the difficulties faced by inner-city residents. In the liner notes, Scott-Heron acknowledged as influencesRichie HavensJohn ColtraneOtis ReddingJose FelicianoBillie HolidayLangston HughesMalcolm XHuey NewtonNina Simone, and the pianist who would become his long-time collaborator, Brian Jackson.  The album also included a live recitation of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” accompanied by conga and bongo drums. A second version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces of a Man,” in 1971.

Mr. Scott-Heron often bristled at the suggestion that his work had prefigured rap. “I don’t know if I can take the blame for it,” he said in an interview last year with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics.
Yet, along with the work of the Last Poets, a group of black nationalist performance poets who emerged alongside him in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Scott-Heron established much of the attitude and stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions and has remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West. Read full article here:

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